How time flies! This year RIGK has reason to celebrate as the company has already been working in plastic recycling for 25 years. A great deal has happened in the past quarter of a century. After a long and not always smooth path, plastic recycling has finally become established in society. Waste disposal sites have disappeared from our landscapes and recycling products have become more mainstream. And, after many amendments, the Packaging Ordinance is finally being replaced by the Packaging Law.
The jubilee is also a good opportunity to look back at what has happened so far: how were things at the beginning? Today, as the Packaging Act is the dominant topic in the industry, we automatically look back to the early 1990s when the Packaging Ordinance pushed forwards recycling in Germany for the first time. This also marked the birth of RIGK.
In 1991 the Packaging Ordinance which aimed to curb the growing volume of waste was finally passed. For the first time, businesses had to take back packaging and help to recycle it. Commerce and industry also had to create recovery systems and, as a result, plastic producers and processers decided to establish the “Gesellschaft zur Rückführung industrieller und gewerblicher Kunststoffverpackungen” (RIGK) – the company for the recovery of industrial and commercial plastic packaging.
At the end of 1992 things really started to take off and RIGK which was, at that time, still based in Bad Homburg, assumed its operative work with the RIGK-SYSTEM for the packaging of non-hazardous products. Further recovery systems followed – and, after the industrial and commercial sectors, the agricultural sector also started to use the RIGK services.
The early years: high costs and only few collection points
In the early years a lot of persuasion was required. The licence fees for customers were relatively high compared to those of the present day and the infrastructure of the collection points and recycling facilities was still weak. The volume of recovered packaging was also low and the development of technologies for plastic recycling was still in the very early stages. However, with progressing technology, the improved availability of packaging materials and, not least, the growing user circle, the license costs also dropped.
As RIGK didn’t have to generate any profit from the outset, these price reductions were always passed on to the customers and, in this way, the licence contributions for some packaging were even reduced by more than half in the first ten years. Since 2005 the licence costs at RIGK have remained at a stable and low level.
Awareness for recycling has also gradually grown and, as a result, the number of trademark users at RIGK has increased. The network of collection points for packaging has also become more and more widespread.
Team work in eight systems and two subsidiaries
With the growing number of customers, the RIGK family has also grown: it started with only two employees and today 60 people work at RIGK throughout Germany. Since 2010 the RIGK team has doubled.
The range of recovery systems has also continuously grown and today RIGK oversees the recovery of empty packaging and foils from industry, commerce and agriculture in eight systems throughout Germany.
The trading of plastics and international consulting also play a further important role in the company. RIGK has, for example, assumed project related consulting work in Canada and Russia. The company has also established two subsidiaries in Romania and Chile which support the implementation of recycling systems in the respective countries.
RIGK is also nationally and internationally networked in its sector with memberships in several organisations including the industry initiative for product responsibility (BiPv) and the EPRO (European Plastics Recycling Organisation) with which RIGK recently successfully held the International Recycling Forum Wiesbaden for the second time.
The future – new challenges
Today, in the RIGK’s jubilee year, packaging recycling is getting fresh impetus from the world of politics. Similar to 25 years ago, the new packaging law will bring changes for the recovery and recycling of plastics. This represents new challenges but also a further step which will benefit the environment.
This change also means that the work of RIGK is becoming more important socially and that the demand for its services continues to grow. After these 25 successful years, RIGK will not rest with what it has achieved so far – more so, the new goals for the coming years have already been set.
These include securing the company’s good financial situation as well as customer satisfaction in the established systems PAMIRA, RIGK, RIGK-G and BEIZE. The systems SCAPA (Romania), ERDE, FOLIO & NETTI, PICKUP and PRE will be developed further.
With the International Recycling Forum Wiesbaden, an industry meeting point which brings together all parties, will also be established in the long term.
To ensure that these tasks and challenges are managed successfully, team work is required. All stakeholders are challenged to increase their focus on turning away from the linear economy in which the potential of used products is not exploited and, instead, focus more on closed substance cycle management.